Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 3, Islanders 1 post-game embers: Trades? Who needs those?

Well, it took until the third period again, but this time the Flames didn’t need a goal in the final few minutes to ensure a well-deserved regulation win. They got that accomplished a little earlier, and with an insurance goal, too!

Feel of the game

Having just come off of a 4-2 win over the Islanders not even a week before – a game the Flames thoroughly dominated, completely limiting most chances their opponent had – this one seemed set to start the exact same way. The Flames prevented the Islanders from even really getting shots on net or meaningful offensive zone time early on, all the while providing pressure of their own. The Islanders eventually started evening out the game later in the first, but Mike Smith was ready for them when they actually started getting pucks to the net.

The Flames came out dangerous to start the second, though, and that drew a penalty – one they capitalized on right away with an absolutely disgusting between-the-legs goal from Matthew Tkachuk. That gave them some life, but none of their followup scoring chances worked, and instead, the Islanders took advantage of a bad turnover – Tkachuk giveth, and Tkachuk taketh away – to even up the score. After successfully killing off some terse penalties of their own, the Flames had the chance to really capitalize when they were granted a 90-second five-on-three – only for them to not really do anything with it at all.

In typical Flames fashion, though, they were good for the third period. Mikael Backlund quickly got them the lead back, and when Rasmus Andersson added on just under two minutes later, that seemed to be the end of the game. When it wasn’t – when the Islanders were looking dangerous again, especially towards the end, even with the worst possible penalty to take (a too many men penalty with just under two minutes to go) – Smith fended them off, reportedly not hurting himself in the process, as the horrors of the 2017-18 season likely flashed before everyone’s eyes again on that save. The Flames couldn’t get the empty net, but it didn’t really matter; they got a decisive win and looked like they’d fully earned it.

The good news

Smith playing the puck attracts the most dramatic criticism, but the real thing to worry about him regarding his play this season is when he looks lost, can’t track the puck, and is either falling forward or flailing around in hopes that it’ll hit him and that’s how he’ll make the save. That’s when you can tell he isn’t on his game. He did not look like that once against the Islanders, which boasts a lot more confidence moving forward. If he can keep not looking like that – if he can keep playing like he did against the Islanders – then the Flames have to be feeling a lot better about their goaltending situation for the next couple of months. That was good against a good opponent.

Not just Smith, though, but the Flames really put together a team-based win. Nobody really stood out more than anyone else, aside from Tkachuk’s particularly fancy goal and Smith’s dramatic save at the end of the game. This is probably going to be kind of stupid to say, but especially after a deadline in which the Flames didn’t do much, there’s a certain increased confidence in them having that sort of collective game. Who was the weak link? Or did everyone just find a way to successfully contribute? It’s much more the latter than the former.

Although the Swedes deserve a specific shoutout. The Flames are up to five now, though only three of them dressed, and all three shone: back-to-back snipes from Backlund (who’s been looking particularly great since just before the all-star break) and Andersson (showing off exactly why he’s a regular on a powerplay unit) got them the win, and Elias Lindholm, with two primary assists of his own, made snap decisions to ensure the puck got to the goal-scorer. That, and it’s just fun to hear stories about all of the Swedes welcoming another to their ranks. The Swedes are great.

The bad news

You just gotta remind yourself that the Flames actually do have a top 10 powerplay in the NHL when you see things like their 90-second five-on-three. It worked out great in the end – the Flames got their third period goals – but that really could have been the start of the games slipping away if they hadn’t come back out with a good third period.

Other than that, the only blemish would really be the Islanders getting a stretch of chances of their own, which you can’t really complain about. It’s the NHL. Every team has those, no one team is completely perfect throughout an entire game. That and TJ Brodie taking a penalty right after a particularly tense penalty kill, but… that’s kind of it. There really isn’t much bad news to take away from this one at all.

Numbers of note

57.69% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They were, once again, pretty good, especially in the first period with their play, and the third period by allowing things to close out mostly uneventfully once they took the lead.

80 – For the second time in his career, Johnny Gaudreau has hit 80 points in a season. The first time was when he had 84 points in 80 games in 2017-18. This year he’s on pace for 104. Six players have hit the 80-point mark so far this season; Gaudreau is tied for fourth overall in league-wide scoring.

71 – Remember how Lindholm’s career year before this was 45 points? He’s currently on pace for 92, so there’s an entirely reasonable chance he doubles it. Seventeen players in the NHL have hit the 70-point mark so far this season; Lindholm is tied for 14th.

60 – Tkachuk is now a 60-point player for the first time in his career. He wouldn’t have even reached that last year, either – due to a season partially shortened by injury, partially by suspensions, Tkachuk was on pace for 59 points in a full 82-game season. So it’s officially-officially a career year for him now. Thirty-nine NHLers have at least 60 points so far this season; the Flames are the only team with four of them. (Mark Giordano is waiting – he’s at 59 points.)

25 – Tkachuk also set a new career high with his 25th goal of the season. He had 24 last year.

38 – Backlund’s been going on a tear of his own as of late, but you might not have noticed he’s nearly at 40 points on the season. For the past six years he’s been good for half a point-per-game each season, and that’s continuing. He’s on pace for the second 50-point season of his career. He also has 17 goals on the year, on pace for 22, which would tie his career high.

82.35% – TJ Brodie’s single-game corsi. It’s not a thing I like to note unless it’s an unusual number, like this. Only three corsi events went against him at 5v5 all game.

0.963% – Smith’s save percentage. Going by save percentages and save percentages only, this was Smith’s fourth-best game of the year, behind two shutouts and a 0.966% effort that was almost a shutout before the Coyotes got a late goal on him. It narrowly beats out the 0.962% game Smith had against the Ducks four days earlier.

Final thought

What an all-around solid win against a team that’s also up there in the standings. There’s a month and change to go in the season and though there’s still a lot of hockey left to play, the Flames might just hang on for the division title.

If anything else, they’ve gotta be feeling good about themselves. They’ve won games they shouldn’t have along the way, but they’ve really earned themselves the chance to win their first division crown since 2005-06. Not to say they’re going to – they pulled away a little from the Sharks on Tuesday, but they’re still very much a threat – but this late in the season? And they’re still going at it? I think that has completely snuck up on all of us but it’s so fun.

  • Atomic Clown

    Brodie needed to take that penalty after the penalty kill. Hanifin backed away from the islanders puck carrier, and he would have had a clear shot on Smith had Brodie not intervened

  • withachance

    A interesting tid bit and explanation why Brodie and Prout looked so solid last night:

    Brodie and Prout were the top pair for the Barrie Colts in the 09-10 season. Very cool to see them still have a good understanding of each other’s game

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      0 0 0 Statline for The Ryan Reaves last night. Third Star. Watched part of that game, saw Mr. Reaves launch Cogliano into space on a clean hit.
      Prout got in a big hit last night as well.
      Chara got up off the mat to give Evander Kane a licking.

      The Big Boys were not fooling around yesterday.

  • aye

    Not sold on the Islanders after watching the 2 games against the boys, Lou was smart not to make any moves at TDL. They are first in their division because of vezina-like season from both of their goalies. I’m not even convinced they’ll be in the playoffs when the dust settles, it’s a competitive division with 4 (better) teams chasing them.

    If the Coyotes somehow manage to sneak past VGK, I wouldn’t mind conceding the division to SJS, we’ve owned ARI this season. But then again, none of MIN, DAL, COL are looking too threatening right now, so maybe we’ll just keep the top seed. MIN would be the ideal first round matchup, they are the most blah of the bunch.

  • Alberta Ice

    So nice to see the Flames playing as a team. Line #1 does not have to be scoring all the goals to win now. New heroes every night is so refreshing. The 4th line really pops my buttons as they play hard and smart to match the other 3 line combinations. Kudos to BP for moving players around and giving each line a sense that they are just as important as the others (which they are). Interesting to read on SN that almost every other team out there was interested in landing Rasmus in a trade. This guy has been playing lights out all year. So glad he got that goal last night. Kudos to our defensive unit. What a great mix of veteran example and savvy assisting our great pool of young defensive players. (Thanks, Tre, for continuing to build on what we have.)

    • Derzie

      The 1st line going quiet started right around the time Peters stated that the D needed to tighten up. I suspect his adjustment and Neal being replaced made that a reality. Wins are tighter but more frequent. First line is carrying less mail. Everybody wins. This is what a ‘team’ strives to be. Pretty surreal.

  • Raffydog

    Now that I’ve had a couple days to calm down, I’m actually really glad Treliving didn’t do anything on the deadline. More specifically that he didnt trade away Valimaki or Andersson.

  • Frunobulax

    Just saying…I watched the league leading Bolts get taken to an OT shoot out against the lowly Kings the other day. Bolts nailed I don’t know how many posts. The best team in the league can faulter to poor teams.

    Flames look great. They continue to win. Can this style of play get us through a playoff series?
    I don’t know, but it’ll be fun to watch. GFG

  • everton fc

    Secondary Scoring Thus Far/February 2019:

    3rd Line
    Bennett – 2 goals/3 assists/5 points
    Jankowski – 2 goals/3 assists/5 points
    Czarnik – 4 goals/1 assist/5 points
    (Neal – 0 goals/3 assists/3 points)

    4th Line
    Hathaway – 2 goals/1 assist/3 points
    Mangiapane – 3 goals/1 assist/4 points
    Ryan – 2 goals/6 assists/8 points

    Not bad, but could use more. Czarnik has playmaking abilities, or so it seems. But out botton six are arriving in concert, at just the right time of the season. Question is, where does Neal fit in? Who gets benched?? Same w/Prout – has he outplayed Kylington? Is the 1/2 pairing of Gio/Andersson much better than Gio/Brodie?? Is Smith the #1, or Rittich – Smith is coming around, 5-2 in February, and I believe a save percentage > 90%. Good “challenges” to have, and we didn’t lose any assets at the deadline.

    Like our Flames, the Islanders are not suppose to be where they are. Both teams have benefited from coaching changes – superior coaching has brought the most out of both rosters. The Flames have more “high-end” guys, but what Trotz has done w/the Isles, sans Tavares, is truly remarkable. Goaltending will make or break the Isles both down the stretch, and in the playoffs. Just like it will with the Flames, and every other team in the playoffs. It is what it is – I’m glad both our goalies are healthy, and playing at a high level.

      • Pancakes

        “Is the 1/2 pairing of gio/ras much better than gio/Brodie?”
        I don’t think it needs to be better. What this move does is let rad play with gio to improve AND makes our 3rd pairing potentially stronger with Prout/Brodie. I think the question should be does having rad on the 1st make our 3rd pairing better/are we harder to play against?

        • withachance

          Great point – I think Kylington – Brodie can be a viable pairing too, against teams who clog the neutral zone and forecheck well

          Brodie – Prout for more balanced line up and against bigger truculent teams like SJS

  • Off the wall

    Fun fact,
    The Flames have 20 wins at home, 20 wins on the road.

    You gotta hand it to Peters.
    He’s got this group playing good hockey, no matter where they play!

  • First Name Unidentified

    Now that we have found our first pairing right shot defender, TJ can be sent to the leafs for Kapannen in the summer.
    I can’t believe how steady Prout has been playing too!! Knowing we still have Ras and Valimaki in Cowtown is such a huge relief. Well done, Brad. No move was the biggest move this TDL. Neal will eventually win his cup on third try this year, being only the second player after Marian Hossa to go to the cup finals 3 years in a row with 3 different teams. I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the season. GFG

  • RU63

    Is it true that TJ and Prout used to be D partners in Junior? They have been looking solid together as their skills compliment each other; this could be our 3rd pairing for the playoffs.

  • 谢谢兄弟,我爱你

    This is 100% true:
    “Smith playing the puck attracts the most dramatic criticism, but the real thing to worry about him regarding his play this season is when he looks lost, can’t track the puck, and is either falling forward or flailing around in hopes that it’ll hit him and that’s how he’ll make the save. That’s when you can tell he isn’t on his game.”
    Here’s hoping Smith keeps playing well, although I still want to see more games for Big Save Dave than Smith.

  • Captain Ron

    Watched part of the Vegas/Dallas game last night. Was a real eye opener to see what Vegas players were able to get away with without being penalized. The 3rd period was a complete rodeo out there. They are clearly the new darlings of the league. I’m very interested to see how the games coming up against them play out. Our 4th line in particular except for Hathaway is tiny compared to theirs.

    • Derzie

      Every year the NHL has taken steps to improve the game a little at a time. It has been working. Head injuries are down, scoring is up, separation is improving, skill & speed are increasing.

      Next, the NHL needs to focus on reffing. We need WAY more consistency from them.

      Watching lots of hockey, this would be my wish list for changes:

      – Accountable refs: Keep/publish stats on refs. What they call against who. Any trends? Are some refs biased? We do it for players, so why not refs. If you don’t measure performance, it will never improve.

      – Call the Rulebook: Is charging or roughing even called anymore? Slashing and cross-checking are way undercalled. You can literally kill someone if they are in front of your net. Show me that clause in the rulebook.

      – Playoffs stop having a new rulebook. Teams work for months to get to the playoffs. Then the refs decide that they will suppress skill and reward bulk, bullying & goonery. Huh? Why would a league have 1 set of requirements to enter the playoffs and a very different set to win the playoffs. Like having forwards suddenly be defensemen or vice versa. Make up your mind. Do you want games won by the 1st line or the 4th line?

      • Captain Ron

        I agree Derzie. It drives me crazy at times watching games. How is it that a light tap with a stick is called without hesitation but yet you can cross check repeatedly or body slam a player like Colin Miller did last night and not get called. Reaves skates around for an entire shift with the sole intention of running guys wherever possible and it’s fine. I love playoff hockey but we need more consistency for everyone involved. Players, coaches, and fans. The officiating in the NHL is so bad it’s laughable.

    • Willi P

      Noticed that too, whole game. Cheap shot Reeves crosschecking then trying to pick fights with a stupid smirk on his face. I may be in the minority but glad Vegas out bid the Flames for him.

      • Captain Ron

        I can only hope that our skill prevails when we play them. I like tough hockey when it is played within the framework of the rules but if last night is any indication of what is to come I don’t have much faith that will be the case.